Time for A Two-State Solution

The “cousins,” as Israeli Jews commonly refer to Palestinian Arabs, are at it again in a seemingly never-ending stream of death and destruction between Semitic brethren that accomplishes nothing but weeping at funerals.

The increasingly deadly hostilities have no effect on Israel halting encroachment on land in the disputed occupied West Bank or the apparent ethnic cleansing of annexed East Jerusalem that the Palestinians hope to claim as their state, with the eastern half of the Holy City as their capital. The annexation is not recognized internationally.

Most troubling, a first since before the founding of Israel, are the fiery demonstrations inside Israel by Israeli Palestinian citizens and attacks against those Palestinians by far-right Israeli Jews. It’s a bad omen.

Israeli-Palestinian conflicts have been underway in one form or another since even before Israel won its independence from Britain in 1948 and fought off Arab states to declare the world’s first Jewish nation in 2,000 years. The Arabs refer to that as the Nakba, or catastrophe, which, for the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from the new country, it certainly was.

While Israel with U.S. help has sealed peace with two Arab countries – Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 — peace between it and the Palestinians has been elusive since the days of Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s. Palestinians hijacked airliners and launched brutal terrorist strikes against Israeli cities and towns.

But stubborn, futile Palestinian demonstrations and four wars against the Goliath of Israel, a regional superpower, are unwinnable. It’s as if Mexico and Canada were to start firing missiles at the United States. Hopeless.

For peace, the Palestinians must win something – land. Israel at some point must corral its extremist ultra-Orthodox and secular Jewish West Bank settlers and surrender land to the Palestinians, to award them dignity by allowing them to have their own state just as the Jews got their own state. Simply, it’s the right thing to do.

It is long past the time when Jewish extremists should rely on thousands of years of their history to justify occupying and settling lands formerly owned by modern Palestinians. Times change.

Palestinians need their own sovereign state. Negotiations achieving that goal have been put on hold for too many years because of a right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who doesn’t want any.

“.  . . We have seen Benjamin Netanyahu’s government work to marginalize and demonize Palestinian citizens of Israel, pursue settlement policies designed to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution and pass laws that entrench systemic inequality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a Jew, wrote Friday in an opinion essay in The New York Times.

An unorthodox aberration of a know-nothing American president only made matters worse over four years, destroying the U.S. self-imposed designation as an honest broker who could mediate between the two sides. Donald Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing its status as Israel’s capital, withdrawing aid to the Palestinians and appointing as ambassador David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew.

“In the Middle East,” Sanders wrote, “where we provide nearly $4 billion a year in aid to Israel, we can no longer be apologists for the right-wing Netanyahu government and its undemocratic and racist behavior.

“We must change course and adopt an evenhanded approach, one that upholds and strengthens international law regarding the protection of civilians, as well as existing U.S. law holding that the provision of U.S. military aid must not enable human rights abuses,” he wrote.

Sanders seemed to make it plain he would withhold the $3.8 billion annual military aid to Israel as leverage to produce a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“To be honest, I’m less concerned about Gaza; this campaign is futile and won’t change anything, like the ones before,” wrote Nadav Eden, a father of two, in an email exchange from coastal Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv. “I’m more worried about the Israeli-Arabs. I really hope it’s only a handful and not a deep feeling of a majority of them.” (Full disclosure: Nadav is a nephew through marriage.)

It took a major geopolitical power – Britain — to approve the creation of the Jewish state beginning with a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to British Jewish citizen Baron Lionel Rothschild in 1917. “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. . .,” it said.

It became known as the Balfour Declaration.

Palestine then was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, which lost World War I and territory. The San Remo Conference of 1920 awarded Britain, a victor of the war, administration of Palestine under a mandate that held until Israeli independence May 15, 1948.

Today’s major geopolitical power is America. President Jimmy Carter brought peace between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in 1979, President Bill Clinton cemented the Oslo accords on the White House lawn between Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat in 1993 and Trump secured the Abraham Accords in 2020 among Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.

Washington must do more than help implement cease-fires between Israel and the Palestinians.

The time has come to end an impossible conflict, with one combatant a nuclear power, regardless of how many missiles the Palestinians in Gaza, run by Hamas, acquire. Enough.

President Joe Biden understandably has a lot on his plate dealing with fixing our own country. But he needs to make space for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and step up, as some of his predecessors did, to be a peacemaker between both sides.

“With a new president, the United States now has the opportunity to develop a new approach to the world – one based on justice and democracy,” Sanders wrote. “. . . The United States must lead by promoting cooperation over conflict.”

America should keep the “cousins” from killing each other.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.